GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Ivan Nagy. Starring Ted Raimi, Ricki Lake, David Warshofsky, Traci Lords, Richard Schiff. Horror, USA, 88 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on Dual Format DVD & Blu-ray by 101 Films on 14th October 2019.
For many years thought to be a 'lost' film, there are some that are likely to look at this new 4K restoration of 1993s SKINNER and wish that it still was, thanks to one potentially problematic scene that, although contextually not as inflammatory as some will take it to be, is unlikely to be included if they ever remade the movie.
Which is also highly unlikely as SKINNER has often been criticised for being a B-movie rip-off of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, mainly because it has a killer who likes to skin his victims, but SKINNER has as much to do with THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS as HALLOWEEN 5 does with PSYCHO – yeah, they both have killers who favour large kitchen knives but that’s about it.
However, despite its B-movie credentials and trashy pre-SCREAM slasher leanings it feels like director Ivan Nagy is actually invested in the material and at least trying to put together something that has a little bit of flair to it. The contrast in colours and use of shadows gives the film something more interesting to look at than the usual dull colour schemes that low budget straight-to-video horror movies normally have, and Nagy isn’t afraid to move his camera around a bit to create a sense of frenzy which goes a long way in keeping up the momentum.
But the star of this show is Ted Raimi (WISHMASTER/THE GRUDGE) who plays Dennis Skinner (not the politician), a quiet and seemingly well mannered young man who rents a room from Kerry Tate (Ricki Lake – HAIRSPRAY), who is having marriage troubles with her husband Geoff Tate (not the singer). All seems well but at night Dennis is prone to butchering prostitutes and removing their skin to wear, which is problematic as he and Kerry begin to form a touching friendship, prompting Dennis to want to share his secret with his trusting landlord. However, he may not get the chance to tell her himself as hot on his tail is Heidi (Traci Lords – EXCISION), a previous victim who survived his attack but is now hideously disfigured and out for revenge.
So SKINNER is nothing we haven’t seen before but the aforementioned care and attention from Ivan Nagy, an engaging central performance from Ted Raimi that makes you wish he got more leading roles and some basic but effective make-up effects from KNB make the film a lot more enjoyable to sit through than your average early ‘90s slasher, and thanks to the 4K clean-up it looks a lot fresher than a lot of other similarly pitched movies from the era, despite retaining some of the grain from the original source.
That scene, however, is still likely to raise a few eyebrows. Dennis takes a particular dislike to a mouthy colleague at work, who just happens to be black, and sets about doing what he normally does to prostitutes, flaying the man and wearing his skin like a body suit (yes, he perfectly flays the whole upper torso and wears the skin like a coat) before chasing down his next potential victim. And if that wasn’t questionable enough he does it while imitating the man’s voice, which will no doubt just tip things over the edge for some. It is an uncomfortable scene, and not for the reasons that Ivan Nagy intended, but it is clearly meant for humour – however bizarre it may be – and not for malice. Ted Raimi does acknowledge the scene and how out of place it is during the bonus interview on the disc but it is probably best to put it down to naivety on the part of the filmmakers and leave it at that.
Apart from that blip, SKINNER will appeal to anyone who relishes the disturbing and often zany violence of movies like HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 and even more modern gore-fests like TERRIFIER, and thanks to 101 Films this unlikely limited edition now has a quality release that will hopefully get it seen by more people and get SKINNER included whenever those ‘Best Horror Movies of the ‘90s’ lists get published, as it probably does deserve a mention.